While the struggle of Anganwadi workers continue across the country, on July 10, thousands of workers gathered in various state and district headquarters to observe the All India Demands’ Day as per the call of All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH).
“Lakhs of workers took to streets to be the part of Demands’ Day protest,” said AR Sindhu, the general secretary of AIFWAH.
Raising the long impending demands, the workers have put forward a demand charter. Their main demands are: no to the move to stop hot cooked meals in Anganwadis; no to the move to introduce nursery schools in place of Anganwadis; no to the cut in central share of the ICDS budget from 60 per-cent to 25 per-cent; recognition of Anganwadi workers as workers; minimum wage and pension for workers among other demands.
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The workers and central trade unions have been demanding the implementation of recommendations of the 45th Indian Labour Conference (ILC) on scheme workers. The recommendations include “recognition as workers, minimum wages not less than Rs.18,000 per month and social security including monthly pension not less than Rs.3000 to all scheme workers; coverage of EPF and ESI to scheme workers.”
In Karnataka, Anganwadi workers and helpers have come together under the banner of Karnataka Anganwadi Noukarara Sangh affiliated to Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU). The workers gathered at Hassan, pointed out that opening kindergarten classes in the government schools have affected the number of kids coming to Anganwadi centres. Instead of opening schools, it would be better to provide kindergarten classes at existing Anganwadi centres, the workers proposed. The protesters also urged the state government to fill up the vacant posts and provide early pension to Anganwadi workers.
The workers, who are forced to work more than six hours under the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme, are employed for election duties, conducting surveys, Stree Shakthi, and Bhagyalakshmi without proper facilities.
“Despite a court order barring the government to employ Anganwadi workers for extra duties, the workers are compelled to bear the extra burden. Most of the workers’ payments are also due,” Sindhu added.
In Punjab, workers who have gathered under the banner of Anganwadi Mulazam Union demanded that the state government increase their pay and send children aged between three and six years back to Anganwadi centres from government schools.
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The workers in the state have been opposing the state government policy, which suggests merging Anganwadis and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). Earlier, the Congress-led state government had formed a policy that would merge 800 primary schools and start pre-primary classes in government schools by merging the Anganwadi centres. The pre-primary classes at the government schools that were intended for the children in the age group of 3-6 years— which come under ICDS— would have ultimately resulted in the shutdown of Anganwadis. Even though, after a series of protests in November 2017, chief minister Amarinder Singh had assured that no Anganwadi centre would be affected with the policy, the current situation tells another story.
“In Kerala, in spite of heavy rain, the workers have gathered in all district headquarters raising the long-pending demands of the workers,” Sindhu said.
“The BJP government at the centre had promised to ‘increase the wages of the anganwadi workers’ in its election manifesto. However not only has BJP violated its promise, it also cut down the budget of ICDS drastically. Now, by introducing direct cash transfer in ICDS in place of supplementary nutrition, opening nursery schools in place of Anganwadis, and handing over the Anganwadi centres to corporate and corporate NGOs, this government is dismantling the ICDS,” AIFAWH said in a statement.
Responding to the call of AIFAWH, a large section of workers in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Pondicherry, Rajasthan, Telangana, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, also took to streets to assert their demands.
In Delhi, a protest on July 20 is already scheduled. Apart from this, AIFAWH is also collecting signatures for a memorandum of demands to be sent to the Prime Minister. AIFAWH aims to collect nearly three crores signatures to be submitted to the Prime Minister.
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The Anganwadi workers have also extended their support to the “Jailbharo” protest call of All India Kisan Sabha. “Anganwadi workers and helpers will participate in the ‘Jailbharo’ on August 9, 2018. On the night of August 14, 2018, AIFAWH members will join the ‘Samoohik Jagran’ by CITU with a slogan “Freedom from malnutrition, illiteracy and ill health”. AIFAWH has also decided to try and mobilise fifty thousand Anganwadi workers and helpers on September 5, 2018 in Delhi, for the Worker-Peasant Sangharsh Rally,” the press statement said.